Travelling Through Country: Australian Aboriginal Artists

2 March - 2 April 2022

Works by 20 leading Australian Aboriginal artists feature in JGM Gallery’s latest exhibition, TRAVELLING THROUGH COUNTRY, which takes us on a journey from the rugged rock formations of the Kimberley region, across the dry Central Desert region, and on to the tropical Arnhem Land.



TRAVELLING THROUGH COUNTRY is inspired by the travels across country that the Aboriginal peoples of Australia – from the Kimberley, to the Central Desert region and the Arnhem Land – have been making for tens of thousands of years, guided by the stars and sacred landmarks.


Among the 20 leading artists whose works are featured in the exhibition are five Warmun artists – part of a natural ochre painting movement from the Kimberley, a plateau region in northern Western Australia. Warmun, in Gija Country, was settled by people from different countries displaced by the stock farming in the area after Aboriginal workers were given equal wages in the late 1960s.


The distinctive art movement of the East Kimberly rose to international  prominence through the work of Rover Thomas (1926-1998), who represented Australia at  the Venice Biennale of 1990. Rover started to use the local ochres on canvas to bring the sense of Country closer – to turn the view of Country into an experience of the land’s textures and the white ochres glistening like stars.


The decision to only paint in ochre was made in the mid-1990s, when the Warmun art centre was opened, as a way of staying true to the local Gija Country and to differentiate their work from other Aboriginal art movements. The iconographic style characterising the Warmun artists is partly inspired by their experience working as stockmen on local stations. Here, they kept their link with country as they travelled across the landscape on horseback and gathered at night by the camp fire to sing and dance, creating new ‘songlines’ – sacred, ancestral stories passed down the generations.


One of the artists to work as a stockman on a cattle raunch as a young man was Patrick Mung Mung (b 1948) , whose work featured in the exhibition, ‘Droving through Texas’, is inspired by the jagged and overlaid sandstone mountain ridges of the local landscape. The pink, central circle represents a cave, where Mung Mung and his work-mates left etchings in honour of their ancestors.


Warmun artist Tommy Carroll (b. 1955) shifts from style to style, with the two featured in the exhibition telling the dreaming of the rainbow, a story from country handed down from elder to elder. The circles represent the water holes and the fluid lines of the hills around Doon Doon. 

 Tommy tells the story: “The story of this place was told to me when I was a young fella by my grandfather and his father. This snake was a father for this country, he travelled all over. Sometimes he would stay for a few days then he would leave and pass through the next water place and stayed a bit longer.”


Thomas’ vast aerial maps of country are reflected in the style of Lindsay Malay (b 1971), one of the youngest artists featuring in the exhibition. Malay’s colourful ochre paintings – three of which you can see as part of the exhibition – ‘press’ against the horizon. ‘My Grandfather’s Story’ reflects the story of his grandfather, who was half Afghan and half Aboriginal. His country, which he reclaimed with his siblings in 2010, is at the centre of Gija land, and at the highest point in the Kimberley Ranges, and at the source of many of the rivers in the Kimberley.


Rammey Ramsey (b 1935) is one of the best known Warmun artists. His work mixes ochres and acrylics to create atmospheric monochromes and wet-on-wet colour graduations, to depict his native Warlawoon country, with its landmarks, such as the dreaming waterhole, “home to many fish”, and the presence of people.


Scroll down to discover the full list of works and artists…


Selected Works
Installation Views